David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times, Jan 28
Man-made islands in disputed waters add to worries
China is rapidly building five man-made islands from tiny reefs and shoals in the South China Sea, U.S. officials say, sparking concern that Beijing is growing more assertive in the disputed waters even as the United States boosts its own forces in the western Pacific.
Dredging around Fiery Cross Reef, a former outcropping in the Spratly Islands, over the last year has created a new island nearly 2 miles long and several hundred yards wide.
U.S. officials say it is large enough for China to build its first airstrip in the remote archipelago, one long enough for most of its combat and support aircraft. Satellite photos also reveal a small port under construction.
U.S. officials worry that the buildup indicates a Chinese push to establish de facto control over the resource-rich waters and islets also claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and Vietnam.